Hypersonic Extreme Review (PS2)
Hypersonic Extreme (HSX) is what looks to be the start of the onslaught of budget titles for the PS2. There have already been a couple of budget-released titles in the form of Metropolsmania, and the more popular hidden gem World Of Outlaws from Ratbag. Both of these released at a modest $29.99 suggested price, but Majesco is going one step further. They have released HSX at a suggested price of $14.99, with the majority of the stores selling it for $9.99. The PSX (PS One) since the PS2 release has seen a barrage of budget titles ranging from mediocre to the more common “what in the hell are they thinking” category. This though has still allowed the budget gamer to occasionally find a gem, at a very reasonable budget price.
HSX is a futuristic hovercraft type racer with Nintendo’s F-Zero titles being probably the closest in comparison. You have a futuristic aerodynamic jet powered vehicle racing on tracks filled with twists, turns, and even loops. HSX is billed on the back of the box as: “The fastest racing game you can imagine!” The biggest question with HSX is; Is Majesco trying to release a budget title for the budget minded gamer, or is it being released at a budget price for the mainstream gamer?
The graphics in HSX are not anything ground breaking. The best effects are the rain that splashes on the screen through some races. The nice thing with this effect is it does leave drops on the screen, but they don’t interfere in a bad way with the actual racing nor are they very distracting. Also, the see through parts of the track (a clear section that looks like your looking through a window) are a nice visual effect that is done well. Both of these attempt to add some challenge to the races, the track window effect does a very good job of it and the rain adds a small visual challenge to the races. You will see explosions of the vehicles as they run off the track or if you misjudge a jump. A red shield engulfs the outside of the vehicle when any type of boost is used, and a green one is present when you smack another car or the edge of the track signifying damage to your shields on the vehicle.
The vehicles themselves are fairly basic. They look good up close, but with the races getting extremely fast you really don’t have much of a chance to look at the other vehicles your racing against anyways. The track itself is fairly plain; mainly it consists of water spots, zip strips (speed increasers), and the edges, which you will find yourself becoming very familiar with. The framerate is good though. There are some minor occasions of slowdown that really shouldn’t be there considering the basic graphics, but nonetheless you will experience them. I never had a slowdown in a key situation so it really didn’t do anything to take away from the game other than to be a slight annoyance.
The backgrounds of HSX consist of buildings, the sky, mountains, different landscapes and objects flying around, which at first I thought were birds or something similar but at closer glance it just seems like they are other vehicles cruising through the air. As I said, there is nothing very spectacular with the graphics of HSX.
The background music in HSX resembles a very repetitive techno beat. After a while it begins to feel more like elevator music, which in the end just causes you to turn the music off and listen to the other sounds. The vehicles consist of jet engine type sounds, which should be the case since all the vehicles are jet powered. The depth of the jet engine is very shallow. At best it sounds about as well as a jet flying thousands of feet overhead as you were standing on the ground looking up at it. As for any other sounds you will here a thud when vehicles bump, a bleep when power ups are run over and sound that I guess is suppose to sound like increasing speed when running over the zip strips, or when using your speed burst. Beyond that any other sounds range from rare to non-existent.
The actual worth of HSX needs to come from the gameplay. Even at $10-15 retail price there still has to be some justification for the money to be spent. First thing that will be noticed is that there are only two actual competition type race modes available in HSX: Cup and Time Trials. Time Trials consists of racing to beat the best time at the available tracks, and Cup consists of racing in two different series; Arcade (which consists of tracks with multiple laps) and Slalom (point to point tracks). Within each of the series are a combined total of 5 different sets consisting of 6 races. When you load up for the very first time all that you have available is one set of 6 races in both the Arcade and Slalom series in Cup mode. The only way to get more sets is to unlock them by finishing in the top 3 in the current set you are racing on. You will not be able to race any tracks in Time Trial mode until you complete one of the current sets in Cup mode. Time Trial mode really has no point other then just bragging rights with you or by remembering who actually has the best time when multiple people play the game. The Cup racing modes consist of 1-2 humans and 8-9 AI racers. I did like seeing the ability to have a total of 10 racers on the track at once plus 2 humans being able to compete in the series mode is good for multiplayer action as well. More titles need to find ways to increase the number of opponents and allow multiple humans to race to not only increase the challenge but also allow for more intense racing since usually the human opponent is more of a challenge in the long run anyways. The Time Trial mode can also be done solo or against another human. With another human this becomes a tad more challenging since you can obstruct the other persons race which in essence really makes this more of a race, instead of just racing against the clock.
In addition to the two modes above there is what is being billed as an easy to use Trax Editor. The Trax Editor serves a couple of purposes. It allows you to create new sets of races to be used in Cup mode and also gives the user the option to create their own wild race with a friend or by themselves. While there could have been major possibilities to be used here it is very weak in implementation. There are only a few options available to be used in the Trax Editor from the start. You must unlock the others in the same way you unlock the rest of the tracks in the series modes. There is a decent tutorial for the Trax Editor that will make editing a lot easier, and as you unlock the new options for the Trax Editor you will also unlock new tutorial segments as well.
The actual racing in HSX comes in a mixed bag. First off the controls are rather awkward. Sadly, there is not an option available to change the control scheme any, which you will find is really disappointing. The X button is used for gas, the Square is used for a speed boost, and pressing the Triangle cuts the engine, which in essence is the brake. Do you really need to brake? Yes and no. While braking isn’t really key to winning it can reduce some of the frustration of the controls, which I am going to talk about next. According to the speed meter you are supposedly going 4000+ mph. When a sharp turn comes about you have two options turn and rub against the wall, since all the vehicle does is rotate, instead of tilting into the turn when going that fast, or hit the brake and it will tilt into the corners with more precision. However, with the awkward controls trying to use the speed burst in certain areas and also bank into the turn can get rather tricky. If you have decent size hands you may be able to do all right with it, but most are going to find this a major pain. The tracks come in all varieties from twisting and turning, to straights, to outrageously long jumps. Some of these jumps you completely approach blind and have to do your best part in guessing where you need to be next. If you don’t land on the track you explode which than causes you to restart some ways back and sacrifice your track position as well.
The AI racers are neither aggressive nor consistent. So with patience you can easily get a top 3 to unlock more options and tracks to race on. Every set of races you will have one racer that completely dominates and is nearly impossible to catch up to on a consistent basis, with the rest of the AI either lagging far behind or right with you, waiting for your next mistake. You will find that you can run an entire race without a problem, but the second you make even a minor mistake most of the field passes you. Recovery is simple though, as within a few seconds you will be right behind the leader again.
There are 3 difficulty levels in HSX, the AI is stronger as you increase levels and in addition, if you happen to mess up during a particular set of races you will get so many retries (6, 3, and none respectively) depending on the difficulty level you are racing on.
HSX is a title that with a little more time could have had a lot of potential and replay value, but for $15 what does a person really expect? I would be curious to find out exactly whom Majesco wants to buy this game. The adult gamer is going to get bored of this title rather quickly. The young gamer may enjoy HSX, as it is really a very basic racer when you really look at the game. My 9 year old is really enjoying HSX and is in his current circulation of games he is playing. This leads me to say if you have younger kids and you want to get them something safe to play, easy to learn, and won’t break the bank than Hypersonic Extreme may be the title to check out. For anyone else I suggest avoiding unless you have money to burn for a title that may hold your interest for at most a couple of hours.